Western University has rejected a $200 million sponsorship with Nike over safety concerns for their athletes.
Talks between the university and one of the world’s leading sport apparel brands have heated up, especially with the underwhelming success of the men’s basketball team, who have made the Ontario University Athletics playoffs two years in a row.
Nike reached out to the school in late November 2018, looking to partner with their first Canadian university and dip their toes into the Canadian collegiate market. Mustangs athletics director Beverly Woss was surprised when Nike contacted her in the hopes of establishing a relationship.
“Definitely a surprise for us, but I think with the success we’ve had recently, with the men’s basketball, the football and the ultimate frisbee teams, it really did make sense,” Woss said. “You know, we’re attracting a lot of potential athletes from across the nation, and even though no one really cares what’s happening here with the Western Mustangs, it’s certainly something to be proud of."
The initial details of the sponsorship would see Nike make and provide the Mustangs with jerseys, shorts and warm-up gear, as well as sport-specific gear such as basketballs, indoor court shoes, cleats and even hockey sticks and skates. Woss stated that Nike also expressed interest in buying players' souls, though they agreed that it would be something to explore after implementing the sponsorship with the athletes.
However, the entire project was turned on its ankle a few weeks ago when NBA prospect and college basketball standout athlete Zion Williamson of the Duke Blue Devils, blew out his Nike-made shoe during a key matchup against North Carolina, resulting in a knee injury and missed games. Western became extremely concerned over the safety of their student athletes.
“You know, after seeing what happened to [Zion], we just felt like we couldn’t ever put ourselves or our athletes in that position, where an injury occurs because a shoe was too weak to handle the explosiveness of a world-class U Sports athlete," said Woss. "Player safety is really something that we emphasize and promote. We reserve the right to manufacture our athletes' immense and unique life-course challenges."
Western’s head athletic trainer, Brock Bishop, was also very vocal about his concerns for the school’s student athletes.
“I see these kids come in, usually super hungover, you know, and they really play their heart out. And sometimes, things don’t always go their way, but when something happens because of an injury caused by something totally preventable, I just don’t think that’s acceptable.”
Western has rejected Nike’s sponsorship offer, which was estimated to be around $200 million, and elected to continue with the current gear that they have. Mustangs players, struggling to afford rent and food, were unaware of the offer.